Chariot
"Wars and Rumors of War"

(Solid State Records 2009)Chariot - Wars and Rumors of War

Christian metalcore. Attempting to have sex with a bear trap sounds about as enticing as having to listen to more of that sorry, worn out genre. The general consensus is that it's all generic recycled waste at this point, so imagine the trepidation that comes with sitting down to a few spins with the latest from avowed Team Jesus members The Chariot. But "Wars and Rumors of Wars" ditches most of the conventions of its crappy brethren, and turns out to be a hell (heaven?) of a good album.

The Chariot make unpredictability a priority on "Wars and Rumors of Wars," taking a spastic approach to making heaviness that keeps them breathing in a sea of lifeless, less forward-thinking groups cut from similar cloth. The band is never content to just sit back and riff away. This can be a plus, especially in a song like "Giveth;" just as The Chariot settles into a sky-rending groove, the bottom drops out, only to have the song build itself back up in a series of increasingly towering crescendos. This ADD approach can work against The Chariot, too; opener "Teach" starts out with unbelievably good neck-snapping spasms, but towards the end of the song peters out to some annoyingly off-kilter guitar plucking. The band's unconventional style works out more often than not, though, and does wonders for "Wars and Rumors of Wars"'s repeat listen value. Mercifully, there's not a clean vocal in sight, as Josh Scogin screams his way through the album like one of the Seraphim getting its skin flayed off inch by inch. So if you aren't in the mood to take spiritual meaning from his lyrics, they're fairly indecipherable unless you're really, really paying attention.

Producer Matt Goldman deserves a cupcake for his work here; "Wars and Rumors of Wars" has a gritty, analog feel that's miles apart from much of today's austere metal releases. It sounds as if the band's raw studio recording were simply committed to tape and released. Also of some note is the unique packaging, in which each CD is personally stamped, numbered, and signed by a member of the band (we received 19,210 of 25,000). It all adds up to a record that has a very honest and rugged air about it. If only Sunday mass was this sincere, spontaneous and entertaining, the pews would be overflowing with converts in no time.

B+

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